Barcaldine Castle

Barcaldine Castle, Argyll

~ History ~

1597 ~ The Campbell's aquire the land of Barcaldine. Sir Duncan Campbell, who already has under his control castle Kilchurn, Achallader, Loch Dochart, Finlarig, Balloch and Edinample, builds himself a fine tower house to protect his newly aquired lands.

1645 ~ The castle is garrisoned during the Civil War.

1687 ~ The Campbells again garrison the castle during their invasion of Caithness in an attempt to seize the Sinclair Earldom after they had aquired considerable debts owned by the Earl. Despite their failure to take the Earldom by force, they are compsensated with the title of Earls of Breadalbane, and knowing a great number of Sinclair's have been slain as a result of their invasion.

1692 ~ One hundred and twenty men from the Earl of Argyll's Regiment of Foot turned upon their hosts, the MacDonalds of Glencoe, killing 38 of them and causing the deaths of up to 40 others who flee the scene and succumbed to exposure in the snowswept mountains. The soldiers were lead by Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, historical enemies of the MacDonalds of Glencoe, and conspirers with the government for an opportunity of revenge for past tribal misdemeanours.

The massacre had been prompted by the failure of Alastair Maclain, the Twelth Chief of Glencoe, to swear allegiance to the crown by a set deadline of 1 January. One of the causes for this delay was his detainment at Barcaldine Castle by a detachment of the Earl of Argyll's soldiers.

He was held inside a small closet between the Great Hall and the Laird’s Parlour. Maclain was only held for 24 hours, but this was just enough to ensure he didn’t make the deadline, giving the Campbells the excuse that was needed to dispose of their old Highland enemies.

1752 ~ In the aftermouth of the Jacobite rising and defeat by the Hanoverians at the Battle of Culloden some six years earlier, emotions are still running very high.

Colin Roy Campbell of Glenure, Argyllshire, also known as The Red Fox, is charged with the challenging task of collecting taxes from the defeated clan leaders. Whilst his work is distasteful, the more fair minded regard him as a decent man who makes the best of a difficult job, although anti-Campbell sentiment is still rife in the West Highlands, as the Campbells were loyal to the Hanoverian monarchy.

James Stewart, also known as James of the Glen, helps him collect Stewart rents and the two men often work together.

On one particular day Campbell is going about his usual business of collecting taxes. But on this day this also included the eviction of some Stewart families from their homes, and to give the houses to Campbells.

Having disembarked from the Loch Leven ferry, Campbell, walking behind four others, suddenly falls to the ground dead when a musket shot is heard. The killer escapes into the wilderness.

Within two days, James Stewart has been arrested and taken to Inveraray, to face trial in the Campbell stronghold of Inveraray Castle.

The result of the trial comes as no real surprise. Stewart has presented a defence of an alibi, claiming that he had been several miles away from the scene on the day of the murder. No evidence is presented to show that he has been involved in a conspiracy to murder, and the main witness could only state that he had seen a man with a gun some distance away but was unable to identify who the man was. The presiding judge is the chief of clan Campbell, the Duke of Argyll.

The jury of 15 contained 11 Campbells.

James Stewart is found guilty of the murder, and sentenced to death. On the day of the hanging,  the man who actually fired the shot has to be held down at a house in Ballachulish to prevent him from giving himself up. Stewart's half-brother, Allan Breck Stewart, is suspected of the killing, and has a reputation as a vengeful young hothead who would stir up anti-Campbell sentiments within the Stewart clan.

The body of James Stewart is left to hang on the gibbet for 18 months, in an elevated and highly visible spot at the south end of the Ballachulish Ferry. No-one dared remove it. The remains are eventually cut down by the local halfwit, and finally buried.

1842 ~ The castle is reported as ruinous.


1 Barcaldine, Benderloch, Oban


B road of A828


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Barcaldine Castle is today one of the most luxurious bed and breakfast hotels in all of Scotland.

It was once known as 'the Black Castle of Barcaldine'.

It is a 16th century 'L' shaped Tower House in a fantastic state of repair.

The castle is not open to the public but access to the grounds is permitted with permission. Unless of course you wish to stay at the castle!

The outside of the castle can be viewed from the roadside, and as we have done, from the air!